I have been teaching pole dance now for many years. I've noticed over the years that there are several distinct categories of pole students. So I have designed this little list of pole student categories, for you to determine what type of pole student you are. Study this guide carefully and make your decision - what kind of pole student are you?
The Kamikaze strikes fear in a pole teacher's heart. The Kamikaze appears unconcerned by the concept of gravity. The Kamikaze has no regard to the fundamental rule of pole: that failure to have the pole wedged firmly into some crevice of your body will mean that you will likely plunge to the ground.
The Kamikaze will nod and agree while the teacher gives firm, clear instructions on how to avoid falling off the pole when attempting a new move. Then, once the teacher steps away, the Kamikaze throws themself gleefully and with reckless abandon at the pole, caring not for their own safety nor that of innocent bystanders.
Fortunately, Kamikaze pole students also seem to be blessed with an uncanny knack for somehow managing to save themselves from face-planting at the last minute. And so they live to Kamikaze pole dance another day.
These students are what Public Liability Insurance was invented for.
Tip: Try to avoid giving your teacher a heart attack by always having at least one arm or leg on the pole at a time.
See below for my artistic interpretation of a Kamikaze. You will notice that she has only one hand on the pole, and both her legs are nowhere near the pole. This move has not yet been attempted anywhere (except perhaps for an 8 year old child somewhere in the former Soviet Union). Not recommended for anyone who is not an 8 year old child somewhere in the former Soviet Union.
NB: I know I will soon be tagged in pictures of people successfully doing this move.
The Former Jazz Dancer
The Former Jazz Dancer knows that there is dance magic in mathematics. She loves nothing better than a well-counted routine, where each move falls neatly into an 8 count. If you look closely, you can see her mouth moving ever so slightly as she dances, "ONE, two, three, four, FIVE, six, seven, eight..."
Nothing frustrates the Former Jazz Dancer more than a pole teacher who can't count properly. You can spot the Former Jazz Dancer by the exasperated expression on her face at the end of this conversation with her teacher:
Student: "So do we step on 3, or 5?"
Teacher: "Ummm, I don't know... What did I just do?"
Student: "You stepped on 3."
Teacher: "Ok, 3 then."
Student: "But before that, you stepped on 5."
Teacher: "Right... Well, let's just see what happens this time. Ok class, let's take it from the top!"
Tip: If you want to count, count! If you can't count, and you have tried and failed, don't count! Dance to your own beat.
It is thanks to Amber that I now know how to count.
The Self Taught Pole Dancer
The Self Taught Pole Dancer is the student who began her pole journey at home, in her living room, running between her X-Pole, her phone and her laptop. She is a YouTube, Instagram and Facebook aficionado, and managed to progress to an impressive level all by herself at home, until eventually succumbing to the pull of her local pole studio.
The Self Taught Pole Dancer is a little overwhelmed in class. She calls all the moves by a different name. She gets in and out of moves in ways no one else has thought of, because she worked it out herself from looking at a photo on instagram. She's a little freaked out by the noise and craziness of a pole class with 10 other pole dancers, but she loves it!
Tip: Get to a class at least every now and again if you can - you'll be amazed at how much easier that tricky moves becomes once you've had someone break it down for you. Be wary of facebook group members that give you tips for moves you might not be ready for - it can be dangerous! Stay safe you guys!
You Know When You're A Poler When... the Facebook group that inspires many polers and simultaneously strikes fear into the hearts of pole instructors!
The Drop Bear
This student has complete and utter faith in their pole dance teacher. They know that their teacher will always be there for them, and will catch them when they fall. But not in the supportive, metaphorical sense. In the literal sense. This student will drop suddenly and without warning, usually out of a painful pole combo, and fully expect to be caught by their teacher.
A good pole teacher will prepare themselves for this student by taking off the Pleasers, getting a mat ready, and adopting a brace position every time the student attempts a painful move.
Tip: Try to give some warning that you are about to drop. Please!
Image below of an actual Drop Bear after attempting a superman for the first time in pole class. Note the professional brace position stance adopted by the pole instructors holding the pole crash mat. Well done, team.
This pole student is a natural born thriller. They get every new move on their first or second attempt. They feel no pain, and have no fear. Pole instructors are simultaneously awe-struck by their ability, and unnerved at how quickly they are catching up to them. Students can become a little jealous.
This is the student everyone loves to envy. But don't be a hater - love the Prodigy! They can't help being awesome, and besides, if you're nice to them, they might give you a few choreography tips for your next competition ;-)
Tip: Don't let your amazingness go to your head, and keep on inspiring everyone!
See image to the right of Pole Dance Academy student Sarah Rose Williams, who in the short time she has been pole dancing has won almost every competition she has entered, including Pole Theatre World Pole Art Semi Pro. Congrats Sarah!! You're amazing!
The Battler is not naturally adept at pole dancing. But they absolutely frickin love it, and it shows. They are dedicated, hard-working, and though progress is slow, each hard-won victory is a celebration for them and for their teacher. They have repeated every level at least twice, but they are slowly and steadily getting stronger and more flexible, and making new discoveries about what they are capable of every day. They may never make it to advanced, but they are going to work as hard as they can to be the very best damn pole dancer they can be.
I'm going to put it out there and nominate the Battler as one of my favourite types of student. Go get em, tiger!
Tip: Keep at it!! We are all cheering for you!
See below for an image of the Battler at the top of one of the many hills they have conquered. Note the expression of steely determination on their face (it was meant to be a smile but I'm not a great drawer).
The "I Can't" Student
This student is firmly convinced that there is something fundamentally different about their body, and believes that the difference makes them physically incapable of certain moves. This belief usually stems from an off-hand comment some doctor or physio made to her a few years ago, which the I Can't Student has taken to heart as gospel. Something like "you know, your hip flexors are tighter than most peoples."
As a result, the I Can't Student refuses to accept that anything can be done to change their destiny as the Person With The Tight Hip Flexors.
As the teacher approaches them, the I Can't Student will grip the pole and say firmly, "I can't do this move." Even if they haven't even tried it yet. However, with gentle and patient persuasion, the I Can't Student can usually be convinced that they should try at least to refrain from saying "I can't do this move," in favour of saying, "I can't do this move... YET."
Tip: Stay positive - don't create limitations for yourself :-)
The Scaredy Cat
The Scaredy Cat is a variation of the I Can't Student. The Scaredy Cat refuses to try a new move until they have watched every single other student in the class attempt it and survive it, without plunging to their death. The Scaredy Cat requires a lot of convincing, cajoling, coaxing and bribing from their teacher in order to get her up the pole. Even then, they do it unwilling, with big, fearful eyes.
It is a mystery to everyone why the Scaredy Cat loves pole so much when they seem to spend the entire class in abject terror of their own impending doom. But they show up every week, ready to be frightened up the pole again.
Tip: Have the firemen on speed dial. They're excellent at getting frightened pussycats out of trees, and they know their way around a pole as well. Also, firemen! Ahhhhh ;-)
See the Scaredy Cat's worst fears coming true in the image below:
The Athlete is the student who has played every sport under the sun. They are strong, flexible, fast, and coordinated. But they cannot for the life of them point their toes, extend their limbs, arch their back or flick their hair. They are a little baffled to discover that pole dance may be the one thing they is not a natural at. They are also surprised to discover that they really love pole dancing when usually they consider themselves to be tomboys!
You can spot the Athlete because they arrives at their first class wearing trainers and knee-length running shorts. They say they couldn't possibly pole dance in heels because they can't even walk in them, let alone dance. In fact, they aren't even sure whether they own a pair.
Tip: Practice getting comfortable and working on your sexy at home in front of a mirror when no one is watching.
The Good Girl Gone Bad
This is the student who keeps her pole habit a secret from everyone she knows. She can hardly believe she dared to enrol in pole. She's the quiet one up the back, and is too shy to talk to anyone. She arrives to the studio dressed neatly in a twin set and skirt, and then changes into the cheekiest hot pants in class.
You can tell a Good Girl Gone Bad by the fact that she keeps giggling to herself in class and muttering under her breath "I can't believe I'm actually doing this!" She's a lady on the street and a freak on the pole.
Tip: Keep it up - I love it!
The Desperate Housewife
The Desperate Housewife is the happily married yummy mummy who is as devoted to pole dance as she is to her husband and children. That is, of course, until her husband and children try to come between her and her beloved pole. Unfortunately, husbands and children are sometimes horrified by the fact that their wife and mum is a pole dancer. But they quickly learn not to say anything about it, because when the Desperate Housewife feels threatened, things at home take a turn for the worse.
Remember, pole husbands: happy wife, happy life.
Tip: Don't show off your pole tricks at your kids' birthday parties.
The lovely Yvette doing some housework and ironing her sheets before pole class.
The Motor Skills Challenged Student
This student is not the boss of their own body. In fact, it seems that their body has a mind of its own, and they have little to no control over what their body will do next. In their brain, they understand that they need to hook their right leg around the pole, but something happens to the brain signals as they travel from their head to their leg, and they end up grasping desperately at the pole with their left arm instead.
They are capable of unintentionally tying themselves into such complex knots around the pole that they need someone to help unravel them.
The Motor Skills Challenged Student is often unable to distinguish left from right. To overcome this difficulty, the teacher might consider writing a big 'R' and 'L' on the Motor Skills Challenged Student's hands (careful not to let them do it themselves, or, if they do, make sure you check that they got it the right way around!)
This student also has difficulty working out which way is forwards and backwards, up and down, and inside and outside. In my experience, the best way to help the Motor Skills Challenged Student is to physically manipulate them into the desired position, and then tell then to try to memorise how the position feels. A plus side can be that sometimes in their confusion the Motor Skills Challenged Student will accidentally create a new and interesting combo - and a good teacher will pay close attention to what this student is doing, because the Motor Skills Challenged Student is unlikely to be able to replicate it once they've disentangled themselves from the pole.
Tip: You'll get there! It will get easier as your muscle memory develops :-)
Nothing to be ashamed of. The old right from left can be a bit tricky when you're upside down.
The Born Again Pole Dancer (aka the Evangelist)
The Born Again Pole Dancer considers the date of her first pole class to be the anniversary of when life really began for her. She now devotes her life to two main tasks: as much pole training as she can possibly fit in, and preaching the benefits of pole worship to everyone she comes across. She cannot imagine life without pole, and she now wonders what on earth she did with her time (and money) before she discovered pole.
Pole is not just a hobby for the Born Again Pole Dancer. Pole is a way of life.
Tip: As a Born Again Pole Dancer myself, I try really hard to not talk about pole too much to my non-pole friends. But it's hard. Really hard. That's kind of why I started this blog ;-)
I love you pole and I will never let you go.
The Russian Exotic Polers aka My Body Is A Liquid Vessel And I Have No Bones
Sigh. We can only dream of such buttery, liquid, sexy smoothness as the exotic pole dancers of the former Soviet Union. It's a mystery to modern Pole Dance Science as to how it is possible to be simultaneously strong, flexible, and dynamic and yet retain a kind of undulating snake goddess aura. Pole Dance Science is still studying this question.
It is every exotic pole dancer's dream to study under a Russian Exotic Pole Star. Unfortunately it often remains a dream, because they can't get the damn visas to get into most countries, so we have to satisfy ourselves with social media stalking.
Tip: to assist you in your stalking, get a VK social media account. Trust me. That's where they all hang out. Or just sell your house, leave your husband, quit your job and move to Russia.
The gorgeous Daria Che
The Wannabe Russian Polers
Almost the same as above, except that we are not Russian and we have bones. And we are afraid of pain. Also, the laws of gravity apply to us.
Me trying to fit in with Olga Koda, Eva Bembo, Dimitry Politov and Alex Shchukin. Spot the Wannabe Russian Exotic Poler.
The Pole Sports polers versus the Stripper Style polers
Both groups whole heartedly believe that:
- the other group is the devil;
- the other group is destroying what pole dance is truly about;
- the other group is ruining their own group's hard work;
- the other group has questionable morals and motivations;
- the other group has no grasp or understanding of the True Origins of Pole.
They do have one thing in common though: they all love pole dance with their body and soul. So let's all just focus on that :-)
Oona Kivela and I having a very civilised lunch in London and debating the merits of sexy pole versus pole sports and pole fitness. See, we can all get along nicely! (I will have Oona perform in heels though one day, wait and see... I am biding my time... hehehe)
The "I'm so gay I can barely function and pole dance is a natural expression of that and yes I am quoting Mean Girls it's my favourite movie right after Showgirls which is the whole reason I took up pole dancing and also I look more amazing than you do in this cheeky velvet bodysuit and FYI I am also hotter than you" Student
A common feature at most pole studios. Characteristics of this student:
- wears 8 inch stripper heels to class even though he is already 6 feet tall and as a result can only climb once before hitting his head on the ceiling;
- goes into paroxysms of pleasure at the sight of cheeky, strappy sequin hot pants;
- is not shy about telling his female classmates that he thinks he looks better in cheeky, strappy sequin hot pants than they do; and
- is the fiercest performer at the studio amateur night, where one performance contains at least 8 costume changes, a glitter canon, LED lights, special effects, and a megamix of 5 different Top 50 pop singles.
See below for image of our Queen, the dreamy Steven Retchless.
The "I'm here to learn pole, not to perve on the ladies!! I would appreciate you not perving on me, thanks!" Student
All jokes aside, a pole studio is primarily a place where women go to work out and feel good about themselves, and to have fun while doing so. The straight male student who is permitted to participate in classes has a special place of trust, and should be careful not to jeopardise that! Ladies, remember the rule of reciprocity - no perving on him while he's training, ok??
The Russian/Ukrainian Male Pole Artist, aka "I eat fonjis for breakfast and I slid out of the womb in a middle split."
There are just so many of them now. They are all amazing. We are all simultaneously terrified and awe-struck by them. None of us understood just how masculine and alpha a male pole dancer could be until we started seeing the Russians take over. We respectfully bow down.
Dmitry Fedotov, Dimitry Politov, and Evegeny Greshilov are classic examples.
Wow, this blog ended up being a lot longer than I intended... But I still can't say that it's an exhaustive list! I guess it goes to show that there are all types of pole students in this wonderful world of pole dance. As a teacher, I love helping them all to discover the amazing things their bodies can do.
Knowing what kind of pole student you are might help you to overcome the challenges you meet along the way... or you might just have a good old laugh at yourself ;-)
What other types are there? Comment below!